Background

Development and implementation of the RAWS has been supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. The aim of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy is to assist in the creation of a more consistent and effective animal welfare system. One of the goals of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy is to ensure that Australia is actively engaged in international partnerships and developments to improve animal welfare. Australia has provided leadership and some funding to support the development of the regional animal welfare strategy in collaboration with the OIE.

The RAWS agreed vision is; “A region where the welfare of animals is respected, promoted and incrementally advanced, simultaneously with the pursuit of progress and socioeconomic development. This vision presents both significant challenges and opportunities. These are reflected in the priority goals and their supporting objectives and specific activities.

Photo: Participants at the first RAWS Coordination Group meeting in Bangkok, April 2011

The Director General of the OIE agreed to establish a RAWS coordination group (RAWS CG) and nominated OIE regional representatives, industry, and an animal welfare international non-government organisation as its members. Dr Gardner Murray was appointed as chair and the first meeting of the RAWS coordination group was held in Bangkok, Thailand in April 2011. The first coordination group meeting involved country representatives from Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Republic of Korea and Thailand, industry representatives from Australia and Thailand, a non-government organisation representative from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), OIE representatives from the Regional Representation (Tokyo), the Sub-Regional Representation (Bangkok) and the OIE’s Animal Welfare Working Group. The Australian Government Department of Agriculture provided the secretariat for the coordination group.

Since its first meeting in April 2011, the coordination group has progressed a number of recommendations through OIE Paris for endorsement through the Regional Commission. Highlights of the coordination group’s activities include;

• The establishment of a secretariat within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, to support the activities of the coordination group.

• Translation of the RAWS into four languages with copies provided to the relevant countries for further distribution.

• Making the RAWS available on websites including the OIE site, the OIE Regional Representation for Asia and the Pacific site, and the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy site.

• Establishing a RAWS newsletter which is circulated on a quarterly basis and includes short information contributions from countries, NGOs and industry. The RAWS-News is available from the OIE Regional Representation for Asia and the Pacific site (www.rr-asia.oie.int).

• Development of an Action Plan to define and track activities under the RAWS. The Action Plan notes the key role of the OIE Delegates in progressing the RAWS Action Plan, including reporting on developments for inclusion in the RAWS newsletter.

• Establishing a secure website (Sharepoint) for RAWS CG members and participants to share information.

• Undertaking a ‘proof of concept’ questionnaire of national animal welfare focal points.

• Providing support and impetus for the delivery of an initial practical animal welfare training course in the region. The first course was held in Malaysia in 2011.

• Supporting the establishment of national animal welfare committees in the region.

• Supporting (through the Terrestrial Animal Health Code Commission and the Animal Welfare Working Group) a review of the current OIE standard for the commercial slaughter of poultry for human consumption by addressing feedback from Thailand arising from an EU fact finding mission.

• Actively working with the OIE’s national animal welfare focal points to promote RAWS initiatives.

• Supporting the developments and arrangements being made by the Malaysian Government and other governments in the region on animal welfare.

• Supporting OIE’s implementation of the Australian Government-funded Improving Animal Welfare Program in Indonesia.

• Networking with OIE collaborating centres and supporting initiatives relating to the twinning of regional universities and research centres.

• Development of RAWS communication strategy endorsed through the Regional Commission.

• Indentifying proposed RAWS CG projects: development of a dedicated RAWS website; a joint OIE/WSPA workshop on disaster animal management; and initial scoping of a stocktake and searchable database of animal welfare education and training courses in the region.

• The publication and distribution of RAWS (Edition 2) and its translation.

With the support of its members, OIE has established in-country national animal welfare focal points. Focal points are responsible for establishing and maintaining a dialogue with the competent authority for animal welfare in the country, and/or facilitating cooperation and communication among authorities where responsibilities are shared. The RAWS coordination group engages closely with the national animal welfare focal points in the Asia, Far East and Oceania region. The RAWS coordination group aims to support national animal welfare focal points with the implementation of OIE Standards and to improve knowledge and understanding of animal welfare in a region comprising more than half the world population of people and animals.